This Day in History – 15 Kislev/November 18

15 Kislev


3954/193, Rabi Yehudah HaNasi, son of Rabi Shimon ben Gamliel and mesader of the Mishnah

5521/1760, Harav Avraham ibn Ezra (the second), zt”l, mechaber of Batei Knesiyos

5572/1811, Harav Eliezer Fishel of Brodi, zt”l

5659/1898, Harav Yisrael Efraim Fishel Sofer of Nanash, zt”l, the Afsei Aretz

5677/1916, Harav Refael Even Tzur, zt”l, Rav of Fez, Morocco

5680/1919, Harav Dovid Twersky of Skver, zt”l



Harav Simchah Bunim Sofer of Pressburg, zt”l, the Shevet Sofer

Harav Simchah Bunim Sofer was born on the first day of Chanukah, 25 Kislev, 5603/1852. His father was Harav Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, the Ksav Sofer, zt”l, and his mother was Rebbetzin Chava Leah. He was a grandson of the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, a great-grandson of Harav Akiva Eiger, zt”l, and a descendant of Harav Mordechai Yaffe, the Levush.

When the other children were playing, young Simchah Bunim, mature beyond his years, was sitting and learning. In his father’s yeshivah, among 400 talmidim, he stood out. His chavrusa was Harav Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, later the mechaber of Lev HaIvri.

Harav Yehudah Assad, one of the Gedolei Hador, heaped much praise upon Reb Simchah Bunim when writing to him.

In Sivan 5625/1865, Reb Simchah Bunim married Rebbetzin Rachel, daughter of the naggid Reb Peretz Neiman of Vienna, who promised to support his son-in-law so he could continue learning.

After three years in Pressburg, his father-in-law requested that he come to live in his city of Vienna. Reb Simchah Bunim acquiesced. His father-in-law asked that he join his business, a silk factory, hoping that his zechus would profit the company. Reb Simchah Bunim spent little time there, and even when he was there, he was busy answering Torah-related questions from those who came to ask. To one talmid chacham who asked how business was going, he said that business was very good that day — he had been able to answer a question on Rambam!

As Reb Simchah Bunim’s fame spread through the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he became close to many leading Rabbanim. Many kehillos wanted him for a Rav, but he refused their offers.

In 5632/1871, when Reb Simchah Bunim heard of his father’s illness, he set out immediately for Pressburg. By the time he arrived, the situation was already critical. In all the shuls, tefillos were said for the refuah sheleimah of the Ksav Sofer.

The Ksav Sofer called in the community leaders of Pressburg and instructed them not to leave the flock without a shepherd. With this, he said Shema Yisrael and was niftar.

The community leaders understood they should appoint Reb Simchah Bunim as Rav and Rosh Yeshivah. Since this was his father’s last request, Reb Simchah Bunim couldn’t refuse.

Reb Simchah Bunim was just 29 years old when he was named Rav of Pressburg. He answered she’eilos and judged dinei Torah, besides running the yeshivah which had over 400 talmidim.

Reb Simchah Bunim was involved in the struggle against the maskilim, strengthening all the kehillos in their efforts not to deviate from the ways of the Torah and the mesorah.

He was admired by all the Gedolim of that era. He signed his name first on every kol korei of that time, as all deferred to him.

Reb Simchah Bunim was in Frankfurt am Main (the city in which his grandfather, the Chasam Sofer, was born and grew up) to see a doctor when he was niftar on 15 Kislev, 5667/1906. He was just under 64 years old. The kehillah in Frankfurt wanted him to be buried there, but the Pressburg kehillah would not agree, and he was buried in the family chelkah in Pressburg near his father and grandfather.

Reb Simchah Bunim was succeeded as Rav in Pressburg by his son, Harav Akiva Sofer, the Daas Sofer. Interestingly, the Chasam Sofer was Rav in Pressburg for 33 years, 5567–5600; his son the Ksav Sofer was also Rav for 33 years, 5600–5632; and the Shevet Sofer was Rav for the same amount of time. When Reb Simchah Bunim’s son, the Daas Sofer, neared his 33rd year as Rav, he was very worried, and asked his uncle, the Erlauer Rav, what to do.

He was advised to leave Pressburg and move to Eretz Yisrael. He did so in 5700/1940, and thus was spared the horrors of the War.

Reb Simchah Bunim wrote numerous sefarim, the most famous of which is She’eilos U’Teshuvos Shevet Sofer on all parts of the Shulchan Aruch. He also wrote chiddushim on sugyos of Shas, printed together with his drashos on Torah as Shaarei Simchah. The many hespeidim on him were compiled as Ohel Rachel, printed in the back of Shaarei Simchah.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


November 18

In 1883, the United States and Canada adopted a system of Standard Time zones.

In 1886, the 21st president of the United States, Chester A. Arthur, died in New York.

In 1910, British suffragists clashed with police outside Parliament on what became known as “Black Friday.”

In 1936, Germany and Italy recognized the Spanish government of Francisco Franco.

In 1962, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr died in his native Denmark at age 77.

In 1987, the congressional Iran-Contra committees issued their final report, saying President Ronald Reagan bore “ultimate responsibility” for wrongdoing by his aides.

In 1991, Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon freed Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland, the American dean of agriculture at the American University of Beirut.